Various MSOs, buoyed by having local ad sales growth finish
on or over budget in 1997, seem generally bullish on 1998 as well.
Most sales executives agreed that the automotive,
entertainment and consumer-electronics categories were among the key contributors to their
local sales success last year.
At Century Communications Corp., John Bordeleau, vice
president of ad sales, said the MSO 'finished at budget for '97' with an 18
percent uptick in local sales.
Jerry Machovina, senior vice president of ad sales at
Tele-Communications Inc.'s TCI Media Services, said its fourth quarter in local was
'a little bit soft. We went into the quarter at an 18 percent growth clip' but
wound up 'a little bit light of that.' Other than that, he said, the MSO
'finished on plan,' with full-year growth at about 17 percent.
On the national side, business jumped 30 percent last year,
At Cable One (formerly Post-Newsweek Cable), Ron Pancratz,
vice president of ad sales, said the MSO enjoyed 'a very good year.' Deleting
some system trades and acquisitions for an 'apples to apples' comparison of its
systems' results, he said the MSO posted 19 percent growth in 1997.
Fargo, N.D., 'got through a flood and cable outages,
some of two months' duration and yet made budget and had its best year,' he
said. Its systems in central California have been 'very strong,' he added, and
its system in Mississippi has been building due to recently installed digital insertion
At Jones Intercable Inc., Kevin Dowell, group advertising
director, reported that his Midwest region met its budget with a 12 percent boost, with
Chicago alone up 16 percent. The fourth quarter finished 'way up, about 24 percent,
and that helped deliver the year for us.'
Larry Fischer, president, Time Warner CityCable, which
handles ad sales for Time Warner Cable of New York City, concluded a 'really
strong' 1997 with December entering the books as 'our biggest month of the year
and the biggest month in our history.'
Even with its aggressive sales targets for New York 1 News
for the year, he said, 'We exceeded budget slightly.'
Jack Olson, vice president of Media Partners, the ad sales
operation of Adelphia Communications Corp., noting that the MSO operates on a fiscal year
that ends in April, estimated its local sales growth for the nine months through December
was an under-budget 12.5 percent. A couple of its markets in the Southeast were flat due
to unspecified 'internal issues,' he noted.
Virtually everyone put automotive high on the list of
healthiest categories in 1997. The strongest segmentsfor Century, Bordeleausaid,
included automotive, entertainment -- 'a surprise' -- and retail.
Although 1998 local projections are still being formulated,
he said, 'We're looking for similar increases,' probably with the same key
categories as the major contributors.
TCI's Machovina cited automotive, communications and
local retail as strong in 1997, while Pancratz cited automotive and health care as
standouts and Dowell added consumer electronics and restaurants to a 'real
strong' performance by automotive.
In 1998, Machovina felt, results should be 'an
extension of 1997.' Political advertising in the 1997 off-year did not approach the
1996 level, but he felt that segment should do well this year, perhaps enough to offset
'the negative impact' from sales erosion to the Winter Olympics on the CBS
television network affiliates.
For this year, Dowell, noting that his group had already
'made our January' with 15 percent growth, is projecting a strong opening
quarter. 'The [CBS] Olympics won't hurt us,' as it has in the past, he
felt, adding that Jones has some unspecified local sales commitments in Turner Network
Television's daytime Olympics avails.
Pancratz professed to be 'quietly optimistic'
about 1998, in part due to 'coming off a good year' and also due to a strong
economy and, potentially, some 'political uplift.' Advertiser interest in Cable
One's TNT Nagano Olympics local avails is 'starting to build,' he said --
but slowly, with the Winter Olympics apparently lacking the excitement generated by the
Time Warner's Fischer, who didn't offer
percentages, said he's bullish on 1998, with January having outpaced projections.
The current year should show 'fairly steady'
growth, said Adelphia's Olson, especially in national/regional spot. The first
quarter -- 'actually our last quarter' -- 'looks fair,' he added.
Olson, who didn't have the data on hand to single out specific categories as strong
for Adelphia in 1997 or 1998, said he was not yet clear about the political
category's impact in 1998.
The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau recently reported
that cable's total ad revenues surpassed $7.9 billion in 1997, up 17 percent. Of
that, local/national spot contributed $1.93 billion, slightly above the $1.9 billion
tallied in 1996, but CAB doesn't give separate breakouts for local and national spot.